The Good, the Bad, and the Opportunity

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The last week of January was filled with unpleasant news in the industry—most notably:

Lucky’s Confirms Store Closures; Outlines Timeline
Earth Fare Announces Inventory Liquidation at All Stores

Both headlines were met with shock and sadness, followed by stress as people contemplated how the closings would impact their personal business, and what it means for the industry.

When the news broke, Jay Jacobowitz, WholeFoods Merchandising Editor and President of Retail Insights, and I were hard at work on the 42nd Annual WholeFoods Magazine Retailer Survey, which reflects sales for independent natural products retailers for the period of July 2018 to June 2019. With the data we had analyzed in hand, Jay shared his thoughts in “Earth Fare: R.I.P.” Read his full column, with insights for retailers, and note this major takeaway:

Add Earth Fare to the growing list of supernatural chains that got too far out over their skis: Fairway, Lucky’s Market, Mrs. Greens. It is with some comfort, then, that WholeFoods Magazine observes in the 2020 42nd Annual Retailer Survey that independent retailers, with footprints much smaller than these supernatural chains, turned in a modest annual sales gain of 0.86%. It isn’t the double-digit growth of decades past, but it appears to be stable and sustainable. —JJ

That isn’t to say independents aren’t feeling the pressure—they are. A sampling of what they told us:

  • “When big box wellness stores come to an area, they really take away customers from the smaller privately owned stores. Online ordering has also put a big dent in our business.”
  • “There is not enough profit margin and competition is too high in organic, vegan, raw food online retailing…it’s nearly impossible to have a business in this sector so we have had to discontinue our business.”

Other retailers who shared their thoughts discussed their strategies to overcome these hurdles. You’ll hear more from them—and get the data that can help you fine-tune your own business plan—in our survey, followed by the Retail Insights® 2020 Retail Universe for U.S. Premium Natural, Organic Food, Supplement & Personal Care Sales.

My thanks to Jay and to all who helped compile this survey. WholeFoods Creative Director Christina Smith created a new design to make this survey easier to navigate, and Associate Editor Julia Peterman proofread to help ensure that all is accurate. Thanks also to all the independent retailers who responded. The data here can be shared with lenders and investors to help raise capital needed for a remodel or expansion, and to map out future plans, making your contribution of great value to all in this industry.

This is our most comprehensive survey yet, loaded with so much information that we couldn’t fit it all in the print magazine. Go to our website for the expanded version. And join Jay and me on Wednesday, April 29 at 2:00 p.m. EST, as we discuss key findings during our webinar, plus take live questions regarding the survey. Questions can also be emailed to editor@wfcinc.com in advance. We’d love to hear from you!

Maggie Jaqua
Editor-in-Chief

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